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Some terms and distin£lions of Mr. Barclay examined,
respecting the seat or organ of knowledge.
N his friendly preface to the reader, he tells us,
“ What he had written, comes more from his * heart than his head.” And, under proposition the second, section the first, he expresses himself in these words, “For the better understanding then of this pro“ pofition, we do distinguish between the certain know“ ledge of God, and the uncertain; betwixt the spiritual “ knowledge and the literal ; the saving heart know“ ledge, and soaring, airy, head knowledge. The last, we « confess, may be divers ways obtained; but the first, “by no other way, than the inward immediate mani« festation and revelation of God's Spirit, shining in " and upon the heart, enlightening and opening the “ understanding."
In another place, P. 144. he writes as follows, referring to what he had advanced under the second propofition, “A man' may, by his rational principle,
apprehend in his brain, and in the notion, a know“ ledge of God and spiritual things, yet, that be“ ing not the right organ, as in the second propofi« tion hath more at length been fignified, it cannot “ profit him toward salvation,"
The first quotation evidently points out to us, two feats or faculties of knowledge, the one in “ the head," the other in “ the heart;" the former “ soaring,
,” “ uncertain," “ literal,” the latter « cer* tain,” “spiritual,” “ saving." Upon a deliberate reflection on the operations of his own mind, the writer of this treatise is unable to discover the propriety of these distinctions. He remembers very well the time, when his mind was not taken up with the most important concerns of religion, and those views, by which, I 2
he apprehends, the Spirit of the Lord afterwards infuenced him to forsake his sins, and turn unto the Lord; yet, he is intirely ignorant of any other seat of knowledge in himself, but that of the understanding, by which he means, the foul viewing present, or recollecting absent or paft objects, which it has been acquainted with : Nor has he ever yet discovered two principles of intelligence, the one expressing itself in one part of his animal frame, and the other in another part of it.
It is presumed also, that the distinction of “literal" and “ spiritual knowledge” can mean no more than this, that a person may have a verbal and grammatical acquaintance with a passage, but not the full meaning and sense of the writer ; As for instance, any allegorical passage of a prophet, may be grammatically understood by a person, which is properly a " literal” knowledge of it, but yet he knows not the characters, cireumstances, or facts, meant by the prophet ; in this case, he has not the “ spiri“ tual” knowledge of it. If any thing more can, with any sense or meaning, be intended by the term “ spiritual,” Mr. Phipps, or any one of his brethren, must let us know what it is. There is another dil tinction, which it may not be amiss to take some notice of: It is that of “ speculative” and “ prac. “ tical” knowledge. If by “ speculation” be meant, the viewing propositions as they are, with all the evi. dence that attends them, it may be denied, that persons can have a true " speculative” knowledge of the doctrines of Christianity, without finding them also powerful springs of action influencing their temper and practice ; for it is apprehended, that genuine Christianity is “a doctrine according to god“ liness,” i Tim, vi. 3. It contains the grandest views of the perfections of God, the rectitude of his govérnment, the righteousness of his laws, and the op
pofition of his nature to all manner of impurity, even in the manifestation of his forgiving goodness to the ungodly, through the faith of Jesus : It represents God as showing mercy to the hell-deserving, that he may reconcile their hearts unto himself; for which reason the Gospel is called “ the word of reconci“ liation," 2 Cor. v, 19. In short, if there be any principles, which will affect the consciences of men, when understood and believed ; if there be any, that will raise the hopes of the guilty and distressed'; if there be any, that will enlarge the heart with gratitude, and fire it with love; if there be any, that will reprefent God in the most venerable, and yet amiable light; if there be any, that will make fin deréstable and horrible, and righteousness and holiness pleasing, and to appear, most conducive to our happiness; and if there be any, that can be formed, to affect all the springs of human hope and action, and to inspire the soul with vigour and constancy, - they are the doctrines, they are the sentiments, which were taught by Jesus and his Apostles, and which are piainly expressed in the New Testament. It cannot be conceived, how the Spirit of God can reveal any thing mote affecting, more practical, more spiritual, and more sublime, to persons of this age; fupposing we admitted the immediate inspiration of suggestion was not ceased, or, at least, not unknown in the present and some former generations,
If then a person professes that heart-affecting fyftem of hope and action, Christianity, and be not godly, righteous, temperate, and merciful; its most interesting truths, in their real import, dwell not in him : His apprehensions of it are materially defective.
'Tis well known, however, that many serious honest people use these distinctions, which we have been confidering, in a very good fenfe. By “speculative” and “head knowledge,” they mean, such superficial,
trifling, trifling, and erroneous conceptions of the most important discoveries of revelation, as never engage the governing affections and dispositions of the mind, in the true service of God. They intend not to intimate, that a
man has two principles of intelligence, or that the apprehensions of a person, who is merely a warm stickler for a party, a mighty disputant for its distinguishing tenets, and a master of words and human science, without having his heart and life in fact influenced by the Spirit and power of real christian godliness—they mean not to intimate, we think, that he has the same views of that coinfortable, beautiful, and purifying religion, which those have, who appear to be prevailingly directed and governed by its divine import, and place their happiness in regulating their affections and actions, according to its holy doctrines and precepts.
But, when such an ingenious and subtle writer as. Mr. Barclay uses this language, and with a manifest view to found a system upon it, it is not only allowable, but necessary, to examine into it's fitness and propriety; and if he does not mean, in the second quotation, placed at the beginning of this chapter, to set aside man's rational principle, as the instrument, medium, faculty, or, if you please, seat of the saving knowledge of God, and spiritual things, and to introduce another organ, or repository, of intelligence or knowledge, it is presumed he has no meaning at all : it will appear, however, that we have not inistaken him, when we come afterwards to consider some other things, which he lays a great stress upon in his Apology
Other mystic writers, of no small repute, have expressed themselves in much the same manner as Mr. Barclay, though, it is owned, to establish a different system from his : the consequence of which has been, that the honest reader has been sometimes apt to conclude, that there must be fome new natural faculty implanted within him, before he can commence Christian, or be saved. This has been argued too, from those passages - of Scripture, where God is said to give “the hearing ear,” the “understanding heart,
eyes to see,” “a new heart," and the like: But if these passages are to be understood literally, why not others, where it is said, that “ he will take away the
stony heart, and give them a heart of flesh ; Ézek. “ xxxvi. 26 ?" And then we must suppose, that the finner has really a heart of fint, which must be pulled out from within him, and a heart of real flesh afterwards implanted in its stead : But this is so gross an interpretation, and so palpably false, that it appears Thocking to every man of common sense. The least reflection will suggest, to every impartial person, the proper meaning of these expressions, and that there is a beauty, strength, and propriety, in them, when taken in a moral sense, or as relating to the temper, turn or disposition of the mind; but the groffest absurdity, in understanding them in a literal and natural.
To suppole, however, any new organ for intelligence, or natural power for thinking or willing, is given to the soul, at conversion or regeneration, is to fuppose what I never yet saw proved : It is to conjecture contrary to the plain sente of Scripture, and universal experience and fact: It is to obscure the plainest subject, to wrap one's-self up in mystery, and, from a fond conceit of one's own experience, to attribute something to the influence of the Deity, that never had an existence, any where but in our own imaginations.
The reader will readily see the importance of these remarks, when he confiders that Mr. Barclay faid, it was necessary to make this distinction concerning knowledge, in order to build upon it his notion of internal, immediate revelation.
Mr. Phipps, in his observations upon this section, would put the sayings and distinctions of Barclay, which have been exploded, upon the same footing